Government seeks advice from public

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Norway’s left-center coalition government has launched its effort to seek advice from the general public, as tipped by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in his New Year’s address to the nation. Cabinet ministers are inviting input from students, entrepreneurs, economists and the proverbial “man and woman on the street.”

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and members of his cabinet took time out in Porsgrunn on Tuesday to snack on some waffles, after another day of gathering advice from the general public. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

The goal, according to Stoltenberg, is to find ways of reducing sick leave and high school dropout rates, for example, and boosting business development.

The program is called Samarbeid for arbeid (Cooperation for work), and the government ministers claim they want to listen, to success stories and advice from the public, instead of doing the talking.

Stoltenberg introduced the program during his annual New Year’s speech, in which he stressed that Norwegians need to live off of each other’s work and knowledge.

String of visits.
He kicked it off this week, with he and several members of his cabinet setting off on a string of visits to schools, companies and organizations singled out because they have something to offer.

On Monday, for example, Stoltenberg, Education Minister Kristin Halvorsen and the minister in charge of local governments, Liv Signe Navarsete, visited Sogn High School in Oslo, which has managed to cut absentee rates among students. Then it was off to Opera Software, started up by a few hard-working entrepreneurs and which today has employees from all over the world.

The ministers also traveled south to Porsgrunn, where they visited a rehabilitation center, Kværne Foto and the Herøya Industrial Park, while also taking time out to eat waffles downtown.

“Open and listening”
They want to learn from both public and private sector players, and the leaders of the three parties forming the government (Stoltenberg, Halvorsen and Navarsete) also plan two trips, to the West Coast and Trøndelag, to gather tips. In Oslo, entrepreneurs, economists and others will be invited to government headquarters to share their stories and offer advice.

“We need to be open and listen,” said Stoltenberg, who has promised to follow up the listening with concrete proposals for new regulations and policies

While Stoltenberg and his cabinet were out amongst the public, opposition politicians claimed they’d rather see more of him at the Parliament. Stoltenberg, head of the Labour Party, hasn’t appeared in Parliament since December 2, reported newspaperDagsavisen on Tuesday.

Siv Jensen, head of the Progress Party, noted that Stoltenberg hasn’t shown up for a single weekly “question hour” and should appear in Parliament at least once a month.

Stoltenberg responded that he visits the Parliament “when it’s natural to do so,” and accused the Progress Party of creating a conflict. He was due in Parliament on Wednesday, to talk about the new public advice initiative.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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